We just took our youngest niece on her 13th birthday trip, and we all had a blast! She, like our other nieces, chose Virgin Islands National Park, which just happens to be our favorite US national park, too! These girls are smarties!!
After spending a fun week in the islands with her, we thought it would be fun to do a blog post from her point of view about what makes vacation fun for kids. It may seem redundant (isn’t vacation always fun?) but to avoid heavy teenage sighs, eye-rolling, boredom, or other signs that your dream vacation isn’t quite living up to its billing, here are her ideas about what things make a vacation more fun for kids.
1. Let kids help decide the vacation destination. For their 13th birthday trips, we let the kids choose which US national park we’re going to visit. Once they have a vested interest in where they’re going, the trip has already started off on the right note!
2. Bring along games. We brought along six dice and a deck of cards and Lydia brought Left, Center, Right. With just six dice you can play Yahtzee (which requires score sheets that we also brought along), Cinqo, and Farkle. We also played hours of rounds of gin and a game our friend calls Ynnuf with the cards. One note: be sure you know or bring the rules with you. This makes everything more fun! (In the name of packing light, we took pictures of the games’ rules on our smartphones before leaving home.)
3. Pack snacks kids like. Many a meltdown has been averted by sticking a snack in the mouth of a traveler (and not just the kids!). Our list of good travel snacks include trail mix, nuts, and granola bars. Lydia suggests you make sure to bring gummy bears!
4. Let kids have input on what they do during the day, and let kids know what the plan for the day is. When kids have some say on how the day will go and know what the plan is, they usually have a better day. One day Lydia had the excellent idea to write down all the activities we wanted to do that day on small slips of paper. We then threw them in a hat and drew one out each time we were ready to move to a new activity. This was a fabulous way to decide what to do next and it cut down on possible arguing about what to do next. You could even decide on the amount of time each activity will last to ensure that you get to do all the things on the day’s list!
5. Bring a good book (or two) along. One of the favorite activities we have on these birthday trips is reading aloud each night from a book that’s set in the location of our trip. Reading together is a great way to have some chill-down time while still doing something together, and it’s great fodder for discussion. On this trip we read aloud Escape from Fear, a mystery set in Virgin Islands National Park (there’s a whole series of Mysteries in Our National Parks!). We also all had our own books to read independently, but Lydia outpaced herself and ran out of book before she ran out of vacation!
Finally, the most important tip from Lydia: have fun!! What tips do you have for making traveling with kids more fun? Leave us a note in the comments, and enjoy your next travel adventure with kids, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!
Great tips – love that you have taken your nieces on trips for their 13th birthdays
Thanks! Three nieces and four nephews down — one nephew to go! The trips have all been great: Denali, Glacier, Hawaii Volcanoes, and Virgin Islands. (Smart kids!)